As the end of the year looms over the horizon, it’s time to take a look forward and mull over the next big thing in 2017.
Much of the articles being published right now about technology in 2017 is looking forward to the future of virtual and augmented reality, drones, and autonomous driving.
However the technology I’d recommend that you consider cloud-based software solutions or SaaS (software as a service) to help grow your business into 2017. If you are a small business, I don’t see a good reason to go out and buy a box of software from Office Max or even anything hosted within your office going into 2017.
SaaS products usually have a monthly recurring subscription cost to them. But the flexibility to upgrade/downgrade users and switch to a different package or even a different product altogether outweighs the premium that you might pay.
There are a never ending number of solutions to choose from, and it can be difficult to understand the differences between them. We’ve used a lot of different software over the last eight years and here is what we are using going into 2017.
Project Management Software
Being able to keep a project moving on time and under budget is at the core of our client’s happiness, and our sanity :). To keep things running smoothly we use a combination of Github and Forecast from Harvest.
Now this is probably not a common combination unless you in the software or web development space. If not I’d recommend taking a look at Trello; it is something that we are going to add to the mix for our team here in 2017. Github works great until we don’t have a development project, so we’re exploring Trello for design and consulting projects.
We’re on the Slack bandwagon and have been using it for almost three years now. It is a great communication tool that allows our entire team to communicate no matter if they are on site or off. Plus the integrations are never ending; we get a notification when someone has left a voicemail on our phone system, we hold a daily Scrum standup meeting through slack and notified when we have a major issue with a site or app. The best part is that the base service is free and the paid version is only $5/user/month.
Time Tracking and Invoicing
We started using Forecast earlier this year and have found it extremely helpful to block off projects over the course of the week and set max available time per team member.
My tip is that you schedule team members at a ½ day at minimum, we’ve found that switching costs are too high to have them move from project to project more than once per day. Now this will depend on your line of work and has nothing to do with the technology, but wanted to put it out there :).
Forecast also integrates with the company’s core product Harvest to establish a project budget and the software will estimate if you’ll be going over or under budget. Harvest is also what we use for invoicing as well. It makes moving the project through the process all that much easier. Plus Harvest allows us to accept payments from clients through Stripe or Paypal which makes payments a breeze.
Ok, email is a pretty simple one. If you are going to pay for your email, which I recommend, you should give Google’s business email service a try - G Suite For Business, formerly known as Google Apps For Business. It will cost you about $50 annually per email address but also includes some of the best cloud-based sharing and collaboration tools that we’ve come across.
CRM Sales Tool
Pipedrive is our CRM of choice, price and flexibility are the main reason. The fact that you can have multiple sales funnels setup for each of your business lines and set when a deal becomes stale are a couple of my favorite. You can also upgrade your account to have it listen to both inbound and outbound of an email address, so you capture every bit of the conversation with a potential client.
They also have a developer API so that you can integrate it with other software tools if needed.
Questionnaire and Survey’s
Typeform is an excellent way to collect questionnaires, onboard customers, and automate the mundane data collection tasks. You can setup multiple surveys with unique styling to your brand and can cover almost any type of question. You can even accept payments with it. We use it to qualify my consulting clients to find out if they are a good fit before taking the next step.
We used to use Quickbooks for a long time and then switched to the cloud-based version. There were some niceties, but after trying Xero out, we decided to make the jump for a couple of products. I’m looking forward to the full move here in 2017.
Both products also have a payroll module to help make sure you are above board when it comes to tax filings and tax withholdings.
We used to dabble our toe into the marketing pond and used a number of email signup tools, and it wasn’t until we started using Drip earlier this year that we really saw the power of the workflow.
You can perform actions based on subscriber criteria, such as if they click a link or didn’t open an email.
As the name implies, you can also send drip email campaigns and integrates with a bunch of existing tools/websites.
Plus you can’t beat the pricing; it is free for the first 100 subscribers. If you are at all considering any sort of marketing for your site you’d have to give Drip a serious look.
I’m a little biased, but at the office, we use Booth which is one of our SaaS products. You can redirect calls around the time of day, or when you are busy on your calendar. I’ll keep it short, check it out at trybooth.com.
I’m not paid to promote any of the products listed here; we truly believe in them and what they’ve been able to do for my companies :).